that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
(Ephesians 5:26-27 ESV)
Yesterday we learned that God commands husbands to love their wives as Jesus loves those who are part of His family – sacrificially and without expectation of anything in return. Today we learn that the result of doing so is that he (the husband) might sanctify her.
The word “sanctify” means “to set apart as holy; to free from sin”. One result of someone recognizing their need for forgiveness and accepting Jesus’ death as payment for their sins is that person is immediately sanctified [1 Corinthians 6:11; Hebrews 10:10]. In other words, that person is immediately cleansed of their sins – past, present, and future. God chooses to remember their sins no more because those sins have been cast upon Jesus, who paid the penalty for them [Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 43:25; Micah 7:19].
Now, obviously all this is something only God can do. No human being can do any of this for another person and today’s verse is not implying that husbands can take on the penalty of their wives’ sins. The penalty for sin is spiritual death and we all owe it. No person can experience two deaths. Hence, no one can pay the penalty for someone else.
But what this verse is saying is that when a husband loves his wife, and loves her in a sacrificial way – caring about her more than himself – he will provide for her spiritual growth. This will happen as all spiritual growth happens: with the word. It will happen as he and his wife (and eventually their children) study the Bible together. In the process they all will become more like Christ which is God’s goal for every one of His children [Romans 8:29].
Here we see that love has an intent. The world does not understand this and probably never even considers this. To the world love is an enchanting emotion that leads them seemingly uncontrollably through a relationship. But that is never how love is defined in the Bible. Love is not a feeling (that is lust). Love is an action with a purpose.
The most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, clearly shows this (emphasis added): “For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son so that whomever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life”. God loved. His love caused Him to give (make a sacrifice) with a purpose – to save people from perishing (hell) and instead give them eternal life (bring them into heaven). This is the way God calls husbands to love their wives.
God calls on a husband to love his wife such that he makes sacrifices to ensure her spiritual growth. To that end the husband should be leading a regular Bible study and prayer time with his wife. He should also keep sin out of their home. This would include managing their finances with honesty, and not bringing pornography into the marriage, among other things.
All this is the husband’s responsibility. And with responsibility comes accountability. Just like God held Adam accountable for Eve’s sin [Genesis 3:6-9], God will hold every husband accountable for the spiritual growth of his wife.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.